Running Time: 118 mins.
Unless you are German (and there is every reason to remember the victory in the football/soccer World Cup in Bern in 1954) or unless you are Hungarian (where this film would not have done much box office because Hungary lost), you may not be aware of this post-war miracle presaging the post-war miracle of Germany's economic boom. These days, youngsters are urged to Bend it like Beckham. In those days, they were just as enthusiastic for their local and their national teams. This is the message of this feel-good film (again, unless you are Hungarian) which was a big box-office success in Germany.
Actually, there is comparatively little football in the film so those who are not fans or even in the know about soccer codes will be able to watch the film comfortably. The main play is rightly reserved for the final of the World Cup. In the meantime, there are other very interesting German themes to consider.
The film is set in the Ruhr, in Essen, in the mid-50s. The post-war recovery is not yet in full swing though Essen has its heavy industry and its mines. Prosperity is not yet in the air there. The Lubanski family are having a tough time running a bar, mother, daughter and two sons. The father has been a prisoner of war in Russia since 1943. In the month of the World Cup, many of the prisoners are repatriated. The film takes us into the experience of the war of the ordinary German soldier, the privations and hard labour in the Russian camps and the repercussions on the psyches of the prisoners who simply tried to survive. This takes its toll as the father (Peter Lohmeyer) returns home. Germany is less rigid than when he left and the only way he knows how to deal with his family is reserve and discipline. Much of the film shows the family trying to cope and the father having to learn to adapt and to mellow his harsh ways.
This is especially true for his youngest son (born after his departure, a son he was not aware of.) The son is played by Peter Lohmeyer's actual son, Louis Klamroth. Louis is a dead-keen football fan, not so good at playing. The feelgood climax of the film is in Louis being able to participate in the miracle of the win.
It won't change your life if you don't see this film (except for the German audience who will bask in its joyful spirit film, its acknowledgement of the past and its hope for the future) but, if you do, it will be an enjoyable experience.
Fr Peter Malone MSC is the International President of SIGNIS: the World Association for Catholic Communications and an Associate of the Australian Catholic Film Office.